Friday, October 30, 2015

ARTICLE | Camera Café and the Portrayal of Filipinos

Camera Café and the Portrayal of Filipinos

Filipinos have been so used to comedy programs making fun of other people, using dirty and slapstick jokes, and sometimes politically overtoned. We cannot deny that we get entertained from all of these craziness, but at the end of the day remains one question and that is weather our viewing activity has given us much to think about. Or have we been so passive that we do not seek learning from programs that we watch but just sit in front of the boob tube and get some sheer entertainment?

It is truly high time that programs evolve into a more socially relevant entertainment avenues. After all, media still have the responsibility of educating and informing, and not just entertaining. This paper attempts to delve into one of the season's hip and contemporary comedy program, Camera Café. How has this program actually mirrored the social condition of the Philippines?

Set in an office, everything is seen through a coffee vendo machine and everyone with unique personalities crowd and talk about anything. However, their discussions at surface level are simple but when you look at them closely, there are touches of cultural factors present. In many episodes of the comedy show, different kinds of Filipino values are presented and as an audience you woud not help saying “Yes, that's how Filipinos do it.” What is more interesting is that we get to scrutinize our culture in a more distant way where there is room for objectivity. It is from here that we see how different values has either helped or hampered the development of our country. This paper will attempt to surface these portrayals of Filipino values and how these portrayals have contributed to the image of the Filipinos.

Camera Café, a snack entertainment

“‘Camera Café’ is a French-born concept of comedy television series exported around the world. The show revolves around a dysfunctional office. Its originality stems from the fact that, within the fiction, the camera is fixed into the automated coffee machine of the office space” (“Camera Café,” n.d.).

In the Philippine version of “Camera Café,” Pinoy humor is evident in the dialogue. The series takes place in an office, made more colorful by its unique characters. It has been adapted in more than 20 countries all over Europe, North America, South America and, most recently, Asia (Arevalo, 2007).

The show features office workers who gab away in front of a coffee vendo machine equipped with a hidden camera. They are unaware that they are being filmed so they talk candidly about almost anything from sex to love life, etc. The original French production had 15 characters but the Philippine version added two – a balikbayan and a manang. According to the director of the show, Mark Meily, in almost every office there is a manang who delivers food. (“Franchise of French sitcom on QTV,” 2007).

Although Philippine made, the show had to follow the original production to the letter, as is with franchised shows. This five-minute show, as compared to long hour comedy shows gives audiences something new to follow. In a sense, we can call this program a “snack entertainment click” (“Franchise of French sitcom on QTV,” 2007).

Filipino Values

It is perhaps one of the most important components of a given culture – values. According to Andres (2002), “values are standards on the basis of which people evaluate what are good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate, just or unjust, in their everyday affairs. A value system is a configuration of culture, the dominant motivations and basic principles of people’s behavior, the cultural ethos that binds people together, their views and propositions about the nature of things” (Andres, 2002).

He enumerated some positive values in the Tagalog region. They are: strong family ties, bayanihan/batarisan, pakikisama, paggalang, pag-iimpok, pagmamay-ari, pagdadamayan, hospitality, palabra de honor, delicadeza, God-fearing and hardworking.

Other values commonly mistaken for as deeply Filipino are in fact universal. First of all, when we speak of “traditional Filipino values” such as bahala na, utang na loob, pakikisama, hiya, we do not claim that they are peculiar to the Philippines. Although these values may manifest themselves differently in the Philippines, they are universal human values. While it is true that so-called Philippine values are ambivalent, one does not purify or transform them to Christian values by misinforming people about them or manipulating them (Gorospe, 1988).

Social Construction of Reality

“The social construction of reality has its earliest roots in Marx’s theory of change and in the German culture. In the wake of Hitler’s defeat, much attention was turned to Karl Mannheim’s attempt at solving the crisis of culture that enveloped post-World War II Germany” (Simonds, 1978 in Jackson, et. al., 1999). Mannheim's theory gained acceptance in the sociological world of North America, “because of similar problems that plagued both the German and American societies. As with many ideas, the theory’s basic tenets were somewhat changed and Americanized with reception into U.S. culture” (Stehr and Meja, 1984 in Jackson, et. al., 1999). “The notion that everything is explained in reference to social existence evolved to dictate that human ideas serve as the foundation of human actions and human existence” (McCarthy, 1996 in Jackson, 1999). 

The term social construction of reality was first coined by theorists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann in the mid-twentieth century. They hold that “all knowledge is developed, transmitted, and maintained in social situations . . . and that it seeks to understand the process by which this is done in such a way that a taken for granted reality congeals for the man on the street” (Berger and Luckmann, 1967).  

Reality is not an objective set of arrangements outside ourselves, but is constructed through a process of interaction in groups, communities and cultures. 

According to Littlejohn (2002), social constructionism is characterized by the following set of assumptions: communicative action is voluntary; knowledge is a social product; knowledge is contextual; theories create worlds; and scholarship is value laden.

“Communicators make choice. This does not mean that people have free choice. Indeed the social environment does constrain what can be and is done. Within a social group, people have the latitude to act in a variety of ways, but they are also prevented by meanings, moral orders, roles, and rules from unbridled action” (Littlejohn, 2002).

“Knowledge is not something that is discovered objectively but is “achieved” through interaction with others in particular times and places. Language and how it is used are particularly powerful in determining meanings and influencing action” (Littlejohn, 2002).

“Our meanings for events derive from interaction in particular times and places, in a particular social milieu. Our understanding of events change as times change, and each of us understands our experience in a variety of ways, depending on the context inn which we are working” (Littlejohn, 2002).

“Theories and scholarly and research activity in general are not objective tools for the discovery of truth but contribute to the creation of knowledge. Scholarship which itself is a social activity, has an effect on what is being observed and how experience is understood” (Littlejohn, 2002).

“The focus of the social construction of reality is now centered on how groups produce and disseminate knowledge. One of the basic building blocks of constructed reality is language. Ironically, language is itself a social construction which helps to report and transmit products of our collective lives to a great number of different people” (McCarthy, 1996 in Jackson, et. al., 1999). “Mass media rely heavily on the ability to transmit information clearly and quickly; without language as a semi-universal social construct, the task would be nearly impossible. Mass media are responsible for legitimizing or disputing other social constructs by defining and distributing knowledge on a wide societal scale” (Namer, 1984 in Jackson, 1999). 

Andres, T. D. (2002). Understanding the values of the Metro Manilans/ Tagalogs (Book One). Quezon City: Giraffe Books.

Arevalo, R. (2007). Are local viewers ready for camera café? Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 2007.

Berger, Peter and Thomas Luckmann. (1967) The Social Construction of Reality. Anchor Books.

Bulatao, J., S.J. (1965). The conflict of values in home and school. The Guidance and Personnel Journal. Manila: Philippine Guidance and Personnel Association.

“Camera Café.” (n.d.) Retrieved 7 October 2008 from

Gorospe, V. R. (1988). Filipino values revisited. Manila : National Book Store, Inc.

Jackson, T., Levereaux, D., & Rhine, D. (1999). Social construction of reality. Survey of Communication Theory. Retrieved 8 October 2008 from

Littlejohn, S. W. (2002). Theories of human communication, 7th ed. USA: Wadsworth.

McCarthy, E. Doyle. (1996) Knowledge as Culture; the New Sociology of Knowledge. Routledge.

Namer, Gerard. (1984) The Triple Legitimation: A Model for the Sociology of Knowledge. Society and Knowledge. Nico Stehr and Volker Meja, eds. Transaction Books.

Simonds, A.P. (1978) Karl Mannheims Sociology of Knowledge. Clarendon Press.
Stehr, Nico and Vokler Meja.. (1984) Society and Knowledge. Transaction Books.

San Diego, B. (2007) Franchise of French sitcom on QTV. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 11, 2007. Retrieved 7 October 2008 from

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